Natural Gas Trucks: 84,550 Pounds Total?
Special to Fleets & Fuels by Tom Guay in Washington
NGVAmerica and other backers of natural gas as a heavy truck fuel are watching to see how the Federal Highway Administration will enforce the new 2,000-pound exemption for Class 8 natural gas trucks authorized in by FAST, the new Fixing America’s Surface Transportation law.
Will the agency go through the time consuming regulatory process? Or will it opt to issue guidance documents to state highway agencies?
FHWA’s Office of Freight Management Operations is scrambling now to first develop an implementation strategy for the provision included in the $305-billion highway bill signed by President Obama last month (F&F, December 4).
Regulation or Guidance?
This implementation strategy will explain which route the agency plans to take, regulatory or guidance, says FHWA’s Crystal Jones. The agency hasn’t decided yet whether to issue an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and go through the formal and time consuming regulatory process. The ANPR (and public comment) followed by an NPR (and public comment) procedure could drag on for years.
An alternative and faster approach would be for the agency to issue guidance instead of regulations. A guidance lets states opt to move ahead now that FAST is law.
“There may be a guidance. There may be an ANPR,” Jones told F&F. “We just don’t know yet,” Jones says.
What Might Individual States Do?
The implementation strategy will also address whether the 2,000-pound exemption is immediately in force, as written in FAST, or whether some sort of guidance might be appropriate to advise state highway agencies on how to enforce the 2,000-pound exemption. For example, should states enforce the 2,000-pound exemption based on a per-axle limit?
It seems fairly clear that the 2,000-pound exemption will not include the weight of auxiliary power units used to reduce motive engine idle time. At this early stage in the agency’s strategy development, it’s assumed that these two weight issues will be dealt with separately, Jones says, so a CNG-powered Class 8 truck would be able meet the 82,000-pound limit by exempting 2,000 pounds of natural gas fueling systems and the roughly 550 pounds of an APU.
It is therefore likely that a natural gas powered heavy duty truck could weigh as much as 84,550 pounds.
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Source: Fleets & Fuels interviews in Washington, D.C.